Connecticut Audbon Society

125th Anniversary

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

October 2, 2015
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Archilochus colubris

by Kathy Van Der Aue, member of the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Fairfield Regional Board and President of the Connecticut Ornithological Association  
Going, going, gone! Time is running out to see this tiny garden gem this year. They return to their wintering grounds, mostly in Central America, around the end of September, many arriving there after making the perilous 18-hour crossing of the Gulf of Mexico. My late record here in Southport is October 7th and then the delight of seeing these birds is gone again until late April.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)  Date: 5/20/2009  Location: Somerset County, NJ

What to look for: Look for motion around flower gardens, especially at red, tubular flowers. At 3.5 inches long, they are the smallest bird breeding east of the Rockies and almost exclusively the only hummingbird we encounter in the summer here in Connecticut.

The males are iridescent green with pale undersides and a throat (gorget) that flashes red in the light and otherwise appears black. The tail is all dark green and forked. Females have green backs and pale undersides with white tips on the outer tail feathers. They lack the brilliant gorgets of the males and are slightly larger. Both sexes have needle-like, slightly decurved bills.

What if I miss it this year? Gear up for next spring. First, watch the progress of the migration by checking this Hummingbird Migration map. It will tell you when to begin putting out your feeders. I put mine out when they appear in New Jersey.

If you’ve never had them at your feeders before, plant red tubular flowers under the spot where you place the feeder. If you can find it, a really good plant is called Cuphea, but any red flowers will get them interested in the spot.

Interesting facts: A recent New York Times article stated that hummingbirds return to the same spots year after year and that they know where all the feeders are located along their migration routes. They even recognize the person who fills the feeder. If you see a hummingbird after mid-October, pay it careful attention as it is very likely to be a western species, such as a Rufous Hummingbird. Some stray our way late in the fall.

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